California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in a press release said it has filed a lawsuit against the team behind the production of Criminal Minds, a popular and long-running series, alleging that they were aware of and condoned rampant sexual misconduct by the show's cinematographer, Gregory St. Johns.
The suit also alleges that St. Johns had unfairly fired more than a dozen men who resisted his sexual harassment, an act which the department frowns heavily upon.
St. Johns was fired in 2018 after 14 years on the show largely due to an exclusive story that detailed complaints of sexual harassment against crew members.
The Walt Disney Company, ABC Signature Studios, Entertainment Partners, CBS Studios, Erica Messer, Harry Bring, John Breen Frazier, Glenn Kashaw, and Stacy Beneville have been named as defendants in the suit according to court documents from https://california.staterecords.org/court.php.
The litigation also alleges that St. Johns, aided by the defendants, had created a hostile work environment, especially for those who rejected his advances or spoke against them. The plaintiff seeks back pay and other damages for the crew members who were fired.
ABC Signature Studios has vigorously defended these allegations. "The company works hard to maintain a work environment free from discrimination, harassment, or retaliation," the studio said in a statement.
According to the story on Variety, the state agency began an investigation in March 2019 and discovered a pattern of unwanted sexual touching, groping of men's genitals and buttocks, caressing, and unsolicited kisses.
According to the lawsuit and story on Variety, these acts by St. Johns were rampant, frequent, and public. Also, complaints to human resources did not result in meaningful discipline against St. Johns' misconduct.
Documents filed with the court alleges that he reprimanded, criticized, ostracized, and publicly humiliated those who resisted him and that executives overseeing the show routinely approved of the retaliatory firings he recommended.
ABC Studios released a statement claiming that the company took corrective action. "We cooperated with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing during its investigation, and we regret that we were unable to reach a reasonable resolution," they said.